In 105 AD, Han Dynasty eunuch (by the name of Cai Lun) made a mash of mulberry bark, rags, and fishnets, mimicking the mastication of wasps and bees to make paper.
A little more than 1,859 years later, modern technicians were forecasting the prospect of the paperless office, imagining our device-laden lives would forego the material record of information in favor of the bright present of our glowing screens. Though the letter has dwindled in the face of e-mail, texts, and tweets, paper is far from forgotten, encumbering mailboxes, wallets, grocery bags, and still the occasional volume of Keats -- each displaying the authoritative heft of ink against the fragile translucence of one of the early tools of civilization.
Artist and choreographer Qinmin Liu, a native of Hunan, who recently trod the streets of San Francisco for eight hours clad in little more than grains of rice in a performance intended to create community in a nearly scandalous bid for contact, ruminates on the mutual fragility of paper and human life in her newest work, PAPER, on view June 6-7 at KUNST-STOFF arts.
A recent graduate of the dance department at San Francisco State University, Liu and her company of seven dancers, all alumnae of SFSU, endeavor to create experiences that extend beyond the rhythmic flexing of muscle, whether that involves a meticulous staging of the application of false lashes, an exercise in the dynamic possibilities of pointed stillness, or the gradual obscuration of the blankness of the body with words written in lipstick, a colorful, feminized, audience-participatory reprise of Zhang Huan's Family Tree (2000).
In PAPER, Liu places the audience in an atmosphere of paper, her dancers tasked to bring the body to paper in the form of dancing and painting on it, destroying and ingesting it, in acts that reprise what she refers to as the "4A Concept": anywhere, anytime, anything, and anyone.
"We are not dancers, we are translators," she has said. "I hate to leave my thoughts for the future. So I choose to do it now."